Charles Burchfield's Journals: The Poetry of Place

Charles Burchfield's Journals: The Poetry of Place

Charles Burchfield's Journals: The Poetry of Place

Charles Burchfield's Journals: The Poetry of Place


The personal journals of Charles Burchfield reveal the unique vision and approach to life that established him as America's preeminent watercolorist and painter of nature. When he died in 1967 at the age of seventy-three, Burchfield had filled seventy-two bound notebooks with his personal entries, comprising some 10,000 pages. He included sketches, doodles, quotations, clippings, weather, notes, and other marginalia and insertions offering a rare glimpse into the artist's life. Presented here in book form, the edited journals are organized thematically. The editor's introductions place each section in biographical and art historical context. The material is annotated and informed by the previously unpublished archives of the Burchfield Art Center, and complemented by 41 color plates and 131 black and white illustrations. These journals constitute a full, detailed history of an American artist's life, presenting a culmination of two major literary genres: the nineteenth century spiritual autobiography and the American nature journal. Burchfield's notes feature the activities, daily sketching trips, nature observations, personal encounters, artistic growth, and the religious conflicts of a major American artist. Beginning with the summer before his third year in high school and continuing up to the months before his death, the journals are as complete a record of Burchfield's thoughts and career as Delacroix's journals or Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo are of theirs. Burchfield was born in 1893 in Ashtabula, Ohio, and grew up in Salem, a small town in the northeast section of the state. He received his art training at the Cleveland School of Art. After a year's tour of duty in theArmy, he moved to Buffalo, New York, and went to work as Assistant Designer and later Director of the design department of M.H. Birge and Sons Wallpaper Company. When in 1929 Frank K.M. Rehn of New York offered to become hi


As president of the State University College at Buffalo, I am pleased to celebrate the publication of the journals of Charles E. Burchfield. It is the culmination of a fifteen-year research effort organized by the Burchfield Art Center. the production of Charles Burchfield's Journals: the Poetry of Place, skillfully assembled by J. Benjamin Townsend, bears witness to a rich and historic collaboration between Burchfield and the State University College at Buffalo. the relationship began in 1963 with his appointment as consultant in art and continued after his death in 1967 through the Art Center established on campus in his honor. Through the Burchfield family foundation, the journals of Charles E. Burchfield have been housed at the Burchfield Art Center since 1967.

One may take now an opportunity to reflect upon the connections that help establish enduring relationships, such as this one, between a college and a great artist. As this college applies itself to the task of education through diverse disciplines of study, so was Charles Burchfield's life as recorded here a broadly reaching inquiry, a 67-year series of special instances of discovery, marked for memory from all the moments that compose a life. As Burchfield's journals will serve as an exemplary model of instruction, this college continues to provide its students with a synthesis of practical and theoretical knowledge.

The Burchfield Art Center, in its turn, not only serves the State University College at Buffalo and the larger community by providing a proper environment for art and archives; but it strives as well to create a stimulating environment for the mind, encouraging participation in educational and cultural activities that relate to all the arts. Surely this beautifully written and scholarly book manifests that commitment.

So many have labored intently with this project. I would like to point to several, with my congratulations. I am grateful to C. Arthur Burchfield, Charles's only son, who presented the journals to the center following his father's death. I also thank Edna M. Lindemann, founding director emeritus of the Burchfield Art Center, who with Paul G. Bulger, then Buffalo State College president, and Donald L. Voltz, chairman of the Buffalo State College alumni foundation, received the journals, a core of the center's study collection, and encouraged Dr. Townsend to edit, annotate, and shape this book. Dr. Townsend's scholarship offers evidence of the value of this effort and gives merit to the pride I share with Anthony Bannon, the center's second director, who brought the effort to its happy conclusion with the State University of New York Press.

F. C. Richardson . . .

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